Monday, October 31, 2016

OT: Houses Once Again

[Not much interested in the latest wrinkle of the Clintoooooon Email Scandalllllll because I doubt it will have more than a marginal effect on the (s)election at this point, and because none of the email hooey up to now has amounted to all that much. I can equate it with the more or less "nothingness" of the Snowden NSA revelations which were almost all things we either knew or suspected, and which resulted in essentially no change in the agency's domestic and foreign surveillance -- except perhaps its intensification. Hello.]

So let's deal with houses once again. This one isn't so much of a memory exercise, though that may enter into parts of the post, as it is a consideration of contemporary housing trends in this area of New Mexico, that is to say the north-central corridors between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. We live about mid-way between the two metropoli, on the east side of the Central Mountain Chain, far enough away from each to be relatively untainted by either Santa Fe Style or the urban madness of ABQ, but close enough to get to either one when we need to or want to.

Santa Fe is in some ways a victim of its own style, often referred to as "Adobe Disneyland." It is an ostensibly an honest depiction and reinterpretation of an historic Spanish Colonial architectural vocabulary and vernacular.

But it's always been questioned and questionable. The problem can be manifested clearly at the Palace of the Governors on the Plaza in Old Town Santa Fe, a building which ostensibly dates back to the foundation of the Villa Real, c. 1610. That's actually a dubious claim as the oldest parts of the current structure post-dates the Reconquista of 1692-3 prior to which (between 1680 and 1692) the entire facility and the fort which it was part of had been reconfigured into a pueblo by the Indians whose revolt led to the expulsion of the Spanish.

After the bloody reconquest of Santa Fe and the outlying pueblos by the Spanish, the Palace of the Governors and its extensive Presidio was restored more or less as it had been prior to the Pueblo Revolt and the pueblo constructions were dismantled and destroyed. However, the restoration was largely a reconstruction as not a whole lot of the previous buildings were still standing when the Spanish came back. This is much the same situation as was the case at San Miguel Mission church in the Barrio Analco, which was destroyed by the Indians in the Revolt leaving barely a shell of a structure -- and perhaps not even that -- for the Spanish to rebuild after 1692.

Yet San Miguel is considered the Oldest Church in Santa Fe, if not New Mexico.

What is standing now has less to do with what was originally built and remodeled and rebuilt over the years since than it has to do with the imaginary architecture and buildings that have arisen due to the imposition of Santa Fe Style.

The Palace of the Governors was the first example of the Style, c. 1909. What we see today is what resulted from that imposition; nothing -- substantive -- has changed since then, whereas the appearance and function of the Palace was changing constantly throughout the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.

That, to me, is the fundamental flaw of the Style. Once imposed, change is almost impossible.

The Palace of the Governors today appears almost exactly as it did when it was remodeled in the Style in 1909. Next door, across the street, is the New Mexico Museum of Art, built in 1917, in the Style, and it, too, appears almost exactly as it did the day it opened, but that's not how genuine Spanish Colonial/Pueblo architecture was handled back in the day.

Once built, the rebuilding, remodeling, expanding, contracting, re-envisioning and repurposing were constant. Nothing ever stayed the same for long, and the very idea of presenting a permanent appearance and function throughout all time wouldn't have made any sense.

But that's a fundamental factor of Santa Fe Style: once built or remodeled in the Style, the structure must maintain the same appearance for all time to come.

It's jarring and wrong, in my view, to impose such strictures, as it fossilizes what should be dynamic and organic architecture into a design straitjacket.

I use our own home as example of how a domestic building has changed in appearance and function over time, though it has appeared much the same since its last major remodeling fifty some odd years ago.

Our house was begun, built from adobe dug on site, about 1900. We don't know the actual year construction started, but this area was first opened to homesteading and settlement about that time (squatters arrived earlier of course) once the various land-grant claims were quashed by the Supreme Court. It is our impression that the first part of the house to be built was what's now the living room and two bedrooms, but which was originally probably two rooms: a kitchen/work room and a living/sleeping room. There would have been no indoor plumbing. There might have been a windmill pumping water from a well into a raised cistern that probably supplied water to livestock troughs and a pumphouse beside the residence. There would have been an outhouse, as there was no indoor bathroom. We're not sure, but there may not have been an indoor bathroom until the remodeling of the 1950s.

The next part of the house to be built was an addition on the east that was probably built in the 1920s or thereabouts, also from adobe dug on site, that is now two bedrooms, a bath and hallway but which was probably only two rooms, a parlor and a bedroom, originally. The original kitchen/workroom was probably turned into two bedrooms and a hallway at that time. The original living/sleeping room was turned into a kitchen/workroom as it was larger.

Then in the 1950s (a period of dust storms in this area) most of the land this house was headquarters for was sold for building lots, and the house underwent major remodeling. The south-facing front porch/portal was enclosed and became host to an entrance hall, a dining area, a kitchen, and a laundry room. The east wing was remodeled to accommodate a bathroom, hallway and two bedrooms. The central kitchen/workroom became a living room. The exterior was clad in aluminum siding and the shingle pitched roof was covered with corrugated tin.

Apart from new windows and paint, we didn't change the appearance of the exterior nor did we change the function of the interior spaces.

But we might.

In fact the future plans for this house involve some pretty extensive remodeling while preserving as much as we can of the house's original character.

After removing the aluminum siding and repairing the stucco underneath, we would have a new propanel roof installed, probably blue or copper color. With the roof, however, we intend to finish the attic into a bedroom and bath and a large north-facing studio. This will mean re-building part of the rafters and reorienting the gable on the north side of the east addition to face east. But if we're going to do that, we'll go ahead and rebuild the enclosed portal that now serves as entry hall, dining area, kitchen and laundry room. In fact, it was not built very well to begin with, and because there is a kind of cellar under the former porch, part of it is slowly sinking into the void. Consequently, it requires a new foundation and reconstruction.

If we do that, we'd add a new portal/porch on the south wide enough to cut the glare from the summer and winter sun and also allow for outside leisure activities. If we add a porch there, we'd also add one on the west side of the house where hot summer afternoon sun can be a real problem. Temporary shade would become permanent. Interestingly there are large old elm trees on the west, but they only partially block the afternoon sun.

Rebuilding the south side of the house would allow us to extend the entrance hall some four feet or so to the south, and that would make it large enough to accommodate more than one guest at a time. It would also allow us to put in a bay window in the eating area of the kitchen which will make it somewhat less cramped. Right now we can only seat three at a time in the kitchen eating area, and we'd like to accommodate four.

The kitchen itself could use a remake. It's adequate to our needs, and so it does not require either enlarging or significant reconfiguring. We'd like to install better cabinetry -- the current cabinets are particle board -- 50 or 60 years old -- and have not held up well. I've long felt that a 50s style kitchen would be fun, so have been looking for a reasonably priced Wedgewood or O'Keefe and Merit stove from the era, and even potentially a working period refrigerator. We've had dishwashers in some of the places we've lived over the years, but we hardly ever used them. They always seemed to be more trouble than they are worth. But because of our advancing age, we would consider installing one in a newly envisioned kitchen. We don't have one now, and we don't miss it.

Real linoleum on the floor -- as opposed to the current vinyl sheet goods -- would be ideal, and in fact  linoleum was one of my requests during the initial renovation before we moved in. The problem was two fold-- the contractor did not know what I was talking about, and once I carefully walked him through what linoleum was, he discovered it wasn't available in this area of New Mexico -- he could get it, but it would take a while -- it cost a LOT more than sheet vinyl and that might break the budget (it wouldn't, but the budget would top out at just about what we'd agreed to), and he could find no one locally who knew how to install it. Finally, he said he couldn't install it during the winter because the house had no heat yet, and the linoleum would crack in the cold. So we went with sheet vinyl which after ten years is looking pretty ratty.

In order for the tap water here to be usable, it must be treated with an acid -- such as citric acid or vinegar --  in order to cut the very high alkalinity and mineral content. The water comes from an underground aquifer that is the bed of a former lake, and it has very high concentrations of lime and calcium and so on. We have investigated various non-salt ways of treating the water (most folks around here just add a little bit of vinegar whenever they draw the tap water). We've pretty much settled on a citric acid injection system.

We want to combine the two small (8 X 11) bedrooms on the west side of the house into one bedroom (11 X 16). We would also add a small bathroom by cannibalizing part of the laundry room. The laundry room now houses a very large hot water heater, and because of that, we can't get the washer and dryer to fit side by side. If we had a smaller water heater in a different position, side by side washing/drying equipment would be possible, and thus the laundry room could be much more compact.

The current living room would become a dining room which would include a stairway to the second floor and lots of bookshelves. We now have our books in bookcases in every room, so we would like to combine as many as possible in one room, a dining room cum library. Using the current living room as a dining room would mean adding a new living room as a wing off the north side of the house, adding another 320 square feet or so. Because it would be on the north side of the house, it would have east, west and northern exposures.

There is no central heat or air conditioning in this house, so if we can do it efficiently, we would add them. The problem of course is that the adobe walls are very thick (almost 3' on the north side) and finding ways to run ductwork is no easy feat. It simply may not be possible, and if it's not, we have alternatives including split systems, and even sticking with what we use now, window air conditioners and a big free-standing gas heater. We've also looked into installing gas fireplace-heaters in each wing, and a wood-burning fireplace in the new living room.

The bronze-framed dual pane windows installed during the initial renovation look nice, but they're not holding up well, and some have become difficult to open and close. One was shot with a b-b gun years ago and has now cracked clear across. I would want to replace them all at the same time the rest of the remodeling is done.

We would fence in part of the property on the west side of the new living room creating an enclosed patio-garden which we could make as lush as we like with roses and many other kinds of flowers. Outside that area, further west and north, we'd have raised beds in which to grow whatever we can. Because of the altitude (6,300 ft), dryness and long winters, not everything grows here, but our friends at IAIA have come up with an excellent covered raised bed formula that extends the growing season, and offers an easy method of cultivation for many crops that don't grow here very well at all out in the open.

The rest of the landscaping would be pretty much solely xeriscaping and fostering volunteer native plants like wild lilac.

We'd move our storage outbuilding from beside the house to the northeast corner of the property where it could serve eventually as a "tiny house" for guests, though that would probably be far in the future if it ever happened at all.

Finally, the separate garage would either get rebuilt or replaced -- right now I'm favoring replacement, but that could change. There are other outbuildings, one of which is approximately as old as the house itself which we would like to preserve as a kind of artifact, but it's starting to lean a bit, and I'm afraid it might collapse one day, so we're not sure whether to reconstruct it or merely prop it up.

This is of course a major remodel, but we would hope that the result is compatible with the various expansions and remodels the house has gone through over its long history. This is a genuine Territorial New Mexico house, originally built during the Territorial period and repeatedly remodeled, expanded, and renovated ever since. There's no reason to stop that process now or necessarily at any time in the future. These changes are organic to the kind of place it is.

The fossilization  that occurs to many New Mexico buildings that are built in "Santa Fe Style" or that undergo a "Santa Fe Style" renovation or remodel is to me a sad result of a Disneyland-ish architectural ethic that became standard -- required in the historic district -- over a century ago in Santa Fe and has spread to other areas of the state. It's sad in that nothing is allowed to (significantly) change once the style is set. But that's not how living, organic architecture or communities are or should be.

Whether we do an extensive remodel of our house one day or not, we can be sure that this house will not stay the same over an extended period. It might even be demolished one day and another house take its place. But that's what happens and is perfectly normal in a vibrant living community, rather than one that's preserved in an often inappropriate aspic.

[This post started off with the idea of dealing with contemporary housing trends in New Mexico, but then it veered into other considerations. The spur to writing it was consideration of a friend's house in El Dorado (a rural-ish suburb of Santa Fe) that she's trying to sell. It has many of the hallmarks of contemporary Santa Fe Style, but ultimately it doesn't really work as any style at all. It's a mish mash, and that is common among newer houses built in the Style or a facsimile of it. Because the Style has become so attenuated, alternatives have been growing in popularity, particularly in Albuquerque. High end contemporary domestic architecture, particularly in Albuquerque, has achieved national and international recognition, and many of its elements are available to those on a limited budget in the many live-work, loft and multi-family buildings that have been built in ABQ in recent years.

Housing in standard developments, however, tends to emulate Santa Fe Style -- badly -- or to follow style trends current in suburban developments in California -- such as the ever popular "Tuscan" style, or "Craftsman" or various iterations of the all time favorite "Ranch." In other words, there is nothing particularly "New Mexican" about most of the houses built in recent years, and those that pretend to emulate Santa Fe Style fail and generally fail badly.

I actually like Santa Fe Style domestic architecture when it's done well. The problem is that doing it well is criminally expensive these days, to the point where only the very wealthiest clients can afford it. Given its inherent limitations, many of those who can afford it would rather purchase an extant and well-done house than build a new one in the Style. Consequently, new houses in Santa Fe Style done well are becoming rare, while there continues to be a hot market in older and rather grand homes that were built in the Style decades ago, starting literally with Carlos Vierra's home ('the Ruins' it was called) on the Old Santa Fe Pecos Trail built in 1918 (I've written about it before.)  Other artists' homes -- Frank Applegate (1) (2), Witter Bynner, Gustave Baumann, Gerald Cassidy among others -- are all in variations of the Style as it was understood by artists and architects in the early 20th Century, and they are all interesting and compelling interpretations of historic designs in what was then contemporary garb. Any one of them would make a comfortable home today but not a "stylish" one in the sense of current contemporary must-haves. But the ones that have been on the market have run into the millions of dollars to purchase. A brand new house in the Style would cost as much or more.

So. It isn't often done any more at the high end, and many more modest interpretations are failures.

On the other hand, standard suburban housing, no matter the style, is often uninteresting and ultimately uncomfortable with its insistence on "open concept" living, granite, stainless, pendant and recessed lighting, laminate or carpeted floors, and so on. In other words, the standard contemporary housing vocabulary results in something that's almost a prison of contemporary "must haves" that ultimately have nothing to do with comfort, convenience or the real needs of families.

People like us -- people who don't have a lot of money but who wish to live comfortably in a historic home -- do well to find and rehab an old adobe (they're out there), perhaps not stylishly, but livably. And do as we do, consider other renovations and expansions over time. This kind of home becomes a living, organic residence, in tune with the needs of its residents, not particularly fretful over "authenticity" -- since that's built in -- and subject to change and alteration as needs arise.

That's what I have to say about the subject for now...

Thursday, October 27, 2016

OT: Morning Coffee

Clearly I need a break.

This morning I got up well before dawn as I usually do. 4:30am has been my rising time for quite a while. Sometimes it's a bit earlier. Sometimes a bit later. My rising time is much earlier than Ms Ché's, but she stays up much later than I do. She has homework. So much reading and writing to do for her classes at the Institute up the road in Santa Fe.

4:30am is good. It lets me quietly prepare for the day. I have a ritual, I suppose, to go through each morning: rise, visit the bathroom to do my various duties, brush my teeth, wash up, then to the kitchen to make morning coffee, a combination of fresh ground pinon-chocolate flavored beans and usual commercial coffee grounds, whatever is reasonably priced that time at the store.

I make coffee in an antique stainless steel percolator. It's probably seventy years old, a post war Universal percolator I picked up at a thrift store one day quite a few years ago. We have a newer percolator, but it's so big (12 cups, something like that), that we don't use it. Between the two of us, we couldn't drink that much coffee in several days.

There are several older percolators as well, one of which is a charming Depression era porcelain model with platinum trim (oh my) that we've used only once. It works just fine, and makes a well-rounded cup of coffee. Trouble is, we're afraid the works might break partly because it is so old, and partly because it is porcelain and potentially very fragile and that wouldn't be any good. In addition, there are several other percolators, big and small, all old, that we keep for display. They either don't work, or they don't work well enough to use, so we let them shine on shelves as points of interest.

We have toasters, waffle irons, mixers and other antique small appliances on display as well. We use a chrome plated Sunbeam mixer (a Model 12 from the mid-1950s) and a very old Proctor "Automatic" waffle iron (probably dating to 1935 or before) both of which work perfectly. Our toast is made in a very old, perfectly functioning Proctor popup toaster. That's the thing about older appliances. They were built to last.

There was a time when we had some fancier older appliances we routinely used but they were unfortunately packed up and taken to the dump by mistake when we were getting ready for the move to New Mexico from California. That's a hazard, I suppose, when you have so much stuff accumulated over many years, and there is a whirlwind of activity preparatory to a major move. We had four or five people helping at the time, and there was a good deal of chaos sorting out this from that to go hither or perhaps yon. In the end, there were some losses of things we intended to keep, but really not that much disappeared. Quite a lot was given away, not only because we couldn't take it with us, but because we felt it was necessary to contribute whatever we could to better the lives of others -- or at least to amuse them! So the washer, dryer, and refrigerator in California went to other homes, as did a couple of Radio Flyer red wagons, an antique radio, old lamps with glass shades -- though not Tiffany, they were nice enough -- a good deal of furniture, a complete functional Sunbeam mixer set from the early 30s, a rather grand antique pendulum clock, and on and on, all things we couldn't take with us, but which might give pleasure to someone else, even if they immediately turned around and sold them.

It was amazing how much we'd collected over the years, and Ms Ché has recently written a story about that chaotic period when we were getting ready to move and how many meaningful things to her were lost in the upheaval. And what she so surprisingly found had been brought out to New Mexico unbeknownst to her. Her mother's wooden rolling pin, for example, had been given away. But here one day she was looking through a drawer and found her mother's red-handled doughnut cutter, still wrapped in wax paper, and all sorts of fond memories flooded back to her, filling her with joy. Yes, maybe some things were lost in the transition from California to New Mexico, but much was salvaged, and many-- many -- new and wonderful things were gained.

That's all part of what my early morning coffee lets me contemplate before I start the day's activities.

A cup or two of fresh-perked coffee, a couple of slices of toast, maybe an orange or other fruit, and the cobwebs are cleared from my brain, cobwebs that seem to get more dense every week or so. I didn't used to be so terribly forgetful, but I seem to be losing memories more and more as I get older. But some memories are much clearer now than they used to be. The memory exercises I've been doing focused on "houses" where I either once lived or felt at home have been startling in the depth of memories I've been able to recover. All sorts of details I had never thought about have come back, most of them crystal clear, as if no time at all had passed.

And yet many memories of incidents, people, and places I ought to have are simply gone or seem to be. No recollection at all. Ms. Ché often mentions things that she remembers clearly, and she expects me to remember them too, because I was there, but no. There's a blank where those memories ought to be. But then, if I work on memory exercises focused on those things, it's surprising what I can recover. That's part of what I do while sipping morning coffee, and the exercises themselves give me a good deal of pleasure.

I use my morning coffee time to write letters (emails, of course) to the few people I correspond with regularly and to comment on some of the issues of the day on the various few websites I routinely visit; I'll try to write at least one blogpost here; I think about cleaning up some of the mess our new kittens have made overnight. They're as bad as puppies... but at least they use the cat box so there's that.

And I contemplate what I'll have to do during the day, whether I have doctor's appointments or lab work in Albuquerque, various things to do in Santa Fe -- today, for example, is a convocation at IAIA in Santa Fe honoring the hundredth birthday of a co-founder (Lloyd Kiva New); friends will be part of the program, and I wouldn't miss it. Yesterday it was taking in a movie ("Eight Days a Week" with Ms Ché at the Center for Contemporary Art in Santa Fe  -- she saw the Beatles twice, you know --then hauling ass to Albuquerque to pick up her meds); tomorrow it's the second day of the Convocation in Santa Fe; I have a doctor's appointment in Albuquerque, then a member's art opening at the Albuquerque Museum.

Saturday, there's a Science Café in Albuquerque (Topic hummingbirds) and I think there's a birthday party we're supposed to attend in Santa Fe, and Ms Ché needs to use a gift certificate for Back at the Ranch before it expires.

Oh, it's sometimes a whirlwind. Other times, though, as I sip my morning coffee and munch my toast, I think about how peaceful and relaxing the day could be, chatting with neighbors, listening to the birds, wondering at the knock-out beauty of the sky and the mountains in the distance, reading a magazine or good book. Moments of utter peace.

What a wonder.

Well, I've finished my morning coffee and toast, and it's time for me to get ready for the rest of today's activities. Nice to have a break though from the grueling routines... politics, bleah.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

On The Apology For Past Racial Policing

I've been fuming about this for a while. It's not that the statement by the head of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (a new outfit for me) isn't welcome, it is that it frames the problem of abusive policing as historic, not current, and it essentially absolves police themselves of responsibility, blaming vague social and political forces for the policies and actions of departments and officers.

That argument can be made, but it is just that, an argument. It's not an apology, it's not a correction, it's not restitution, it's not reform.

Here's what the statement said:

There have been times when law enforcement officers, because of the laws enacted by federal, state, and local governments, have been the face of oppression for far too many of our fellow citizens. In the past, the laws adopted by our society have required police officers to perform many unpalatable tasks, such as ensuring legalized discrimination or even denying the basic rights of citizenship to many of our fellow Americans.
While this is no longer the case, this dark side of our shared history has created a multigenerational—almost inherited—mistrust between many communities of color and their law enforcement agencies.
Many officers who do not share this common heritage often struggle to comprehend the reasons behind this historic mistrust. As a result, they are often unable to bridge this gap and connect with some segments of their communities.
While we obviously cannot change the past, it is clear that we must change the future. We must move forward together to build a shared understanding. We must forge a path that allows us to move beyond our history and identify common solutions to better protect our communities.
For our part, the first step in this process is for law enforcement and the IACP to acknowledge and apologize for the actions of the past and the role that our profession has played in society’s historical mistreatment of communities of color.
At the same time, those who denounce the police must also acknowledge that today’s officers are not to blame for the injustices of the past. If either side in this debate fails to acknowledge these fundamental truths, we will be unlikely to move past them.
Overcoming this historic mistrust requires that we must move forward together in an atmosphere of mutual respect. All members of our society must realize that we have a mutual obligation to work together to ensure fairness, dignity, security, and justice.
It is my hope that, by working together, we can break this historic cycle of mistrust and build a better and safer future for us all.
The lead in to this statement asserted that thousands of police officers have been killed and hundreds of thousands injured in the line of duty "over the years," and this apparently is to make palatable the coming "apology" among the Brethren in Blue. If you want to play the Dead Game, it might be worthwhile to point out that "over the years" hundreds of thousands of Americans have been killed by police and millions have been wounded. Families have been ripped to pieces and whole communities have been oppressed and destroyed by abusive and violent policing. The relatively few officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty, generally more in car wrecks, accidents, and heart attacks than by any other means, cannot begin to compare to the number of lives lost in civil society by the actions of police.

To cast this as historical and ignore the current situation simply beggars belief.

But that's where we are in this Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.

That's where we are. And a number of commentators have pointed out that this statement is "better than nothing." "It's a start..."

I've pointed out that -- statistically -- we're in a less violent period of policing and social violence than at almost any other period of our history. It doesn't seem so in part because there is far more available documentation of police violence now than there has been in the past. Some of it is truly horrifying, and so much of it demonstrates that police too often shoot or otherwise engage in violence when objectively there is very little or no threat to them or anyone else, and their use of violence is simply not necessary.

They do it because it is expected of them and because they can.

They can do essentially anything in the line of duty and get away with it so long as they use the Magic Words, "fearing for my life and the safety of others".

That's what's wrong. Police are jacked up to fear literally everyone and every thing. Their lives are always in danger from some shadowy source; the safety of others is constantly at risk. Even when there is no objective threat. They fear that something might happen and react to the potential rather than the actual threat.

When force protection is the prime directive, as it seems to be, then harming and killing those who are perceived as threats becomes the means to implement the directive.

And it so happens that men and boys of color are perceived as definitional and existential threats to police officers, far more than white men or most women.

The perception does not match the reality, but that doesn't matter. According to the law and much police training, the officer's perception at the time is all that matters -- so long as it conforms with a mutable standard of "reasonableness." That standard is that another officer would perceive the situation and the necessity to use force (lethal or non lethal) in the same way. If all of them are trained to perceive black and brown men as existential threats of course they're going to see the situation and the need to use force the same way. Even though there may be no objective threat at all.

When their chief requires them to use force, including lethal force, whenever they perceive a threat -- which might be nothing more than disobedience -- it's no surprise that's what officers do. They follow commands -- for if they don't, they'll be disciplined or fired. Under those circumstances and rules of engagement, it's better for the officer to use force, even if the situation is dubious, than risk the wrath of their commanders for not using force.

It puts civilians in a bind, because under many circumstances, there is no way for them to comply to avoid the use of force against them. As we've seen, in some circumstances, black males purported  to be threats, not actual threats at all, have been shot and killed on sight, simply because someone said they were threatening. In other cases, black males who do not immediately obey confusing or conflicting commands are shot and killed. Black men "armed" with cell phones or packages or nothing at all are shot and killed and the officers who kill under such circumstances face little or no consequence. "Reaching" for anything -- including ID pr a cell phone -- is cause enough for summary execution.

We can go on and on and on listing the many ways a black or brown man can be legally murdered by police. It happens essentially every day.

Hundreds are killed every year -- God only knows how many are injured -- who are objectively no threat at all, except to the fevered and fearful perceptions of police officers who kill them.

Even most of those who are objective threats do not "need" killing. I've said and I will repeat that police killings can be cut by 90% or more -- which some cities have done (prominently, New York City) by changing the rules and the authorities under which police use force, including lethal force.

It's not rocket science. It can be done.

To apologize (sort of) for historic injustices is fine, but to do so without acknowledging the current problem of racialized and violent policing gets us nowhere. To assert that the situation isn't as bad as it looks, since so relatively few individuals are abused or killed by police -- relative to the number of police encounters overall, for example -- is beside the point when it is possible and necessary to further reduce abusive and violent policing to the point where it is essentially nonexistent.

Ideally, police should be modeling 'good behavior' not violent and abusive behavior. I would say that for the most part, 'good behavior' is what they try to show in most of their encounters with the public. Most officers try not to be overtly racist, abusive or violent most of the time. Most of their encounters are resolved peacefully-- or at least nonviolently.

The excreptions tend to involve young men of color far more often than white men or women of any color, or they involve disobedience, unsubstantiated reports by callers to 911, misunderstandings of police commands*, misperceptions of threat by police officers, inability to obey due to mental or physical problems and/or (ab)use of substances, or some combination of these and other factors.

[*Note: police should not be in the business of issuing "commands" to civilians. It is completely the wrong relationship between the People and those charged with serving and protecting said People. Officers follow the commands of their chiefs and supervisors, they should not be issuing commands to the public.]

The fact is that there is a current and ongoing problem of abusive and violent policing, a good deal of which grows out of the historic patterns and practices of police departments. They started in many instances as slave catchers and militias for the purpose of chastising Indians and other undesirables. That's kind of hard-wired into many police departments. Apologizing for history is fine, but it's not enough. Corrective action is necessary, and there's no indication that this association of Chiefs of Police recognize that.

That is not to say that there is no recognition anywhere within the police culture. In fact, recognition that correction is necessary is relatively widespread among police chiefs. And it is strenuously resisted among police officer unions -- whose members feel threatened every time they put on the uniform, and who, despite abundant evidence to the contrary, assert they are under assault every moment of every day.

Resolution of that contrast of perception may not be possible, though certainly many officers and chiefs are trying to find common ground.

The "national conversation" about race and abusive policing has been going on -- and on and on -- for years, and it seems always to be stuck in the same place, as the dead continue to pile up. There have been changes in some police departments that reduce the killing, but in others, there's no change, and the number of dead at police hands is still about 100 a month, year in and year out. To change that, requires a goal -- to cut the number killed by police in half year by year until the number is reduced by 90% or more.

It can be done.

But the goal has never been set let alone met in more than a few jurisdictions. It must become a national goal.

The chiefs have to set the goal for their departments.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Round Three: Creepy Clown vs The Hag -- a Draw

Once again, the "debate" was on the TeeVee while I was doing other things. So I didn't see a whole lot of it and I heard somewhat less than I did of previous installments.

Once again, Trump's facial tics and contortions made him look more and more like a Creepy Clown without makeup (though he was strangely pink this time rather than his more typical orange) and Herself appeared botoxed and made up to look 20 years younger.... oh dear. The Hag she is not! Whatever.

Chris Wallace actually did very well, I thought, asking substantive questions and cutting through some, not all, of the bullshit. I didn't much care for his Pete Peterson "Grand Bargain" hooey near the end, but even that was well crafted and provided each candidate with an opportunity to present their notions of how to deal with the Entitlement Problem (on the assumption that there is one, of course.)

Hillary had an approach -- raising the cap and increasing benefits at the lower end of SS -- that should appeal to a segment of Bernie supporters (assuming they believe her, HA!) while Trump literally had nothing. The problem would solve itself because of his glory and magnificence. OK. Sounds good.

I thought Hillary had an interesting modification of her previous call for a No Fly Zone over Syria. Wallace noted -- to his credit -- that generals and others say that establishing a No Fly Zone would in effect be a declaration of war against Russia and Syria -- and for my money that might not be the wisest course of action. What say the candidates?

Hillary said it would have to be (or would be) negotiated with Russia, it would take time, and it would take place once an agreement was reached. In other words, it would not be a unilateral Imperial imposition -- ergo, one would assume, no declaration of war.... How interesting.

For a moment, at any rate, the sabers stopped rattling. Trump for his part had previously mentioned that it would be a Good Thing to get along with Russia. He's been pretty consistent about that.

Hillary's campaign has been pretty consistent about accusing Russia and Putin of all manner of perfidy, and yet we can be pretty confident that Washington and the Kremlin are in fairly constant communications, that they engage in negotiations all the time, and that they can and do cooperate on any number of mutual objectives, despite the often ridiculous propaganda campaign against Russia/Putin that has been all but universal in the West.

This is very similar to the situation during the Cold War, when sabers were rattling all. the. time. Wild accusations against the Soviet Union and relentless anti-Soviet propaganda were daily injected into the US and NATO public bloodstream, and yet backchannel communications, negotiation, and accommodation between Washington and the Kremlin were nearly constant. The propaganda was not particularly related to the reality.

So when Hillary mentioned "negotiating" a Syrian No Fly Zone with Russia, I had a real "Ah ha!" moment. It's probably already in the pipeline. And that will be a steady as she goes resolution -- at least temporarily.

In other words, the idea is to have a safe-haven within Syria for civilians trying to flee the conflict which for a while will be under the joint protection of Russia and the United States.

Gee, could have done something like that long ago....

Trump again had nothing. He was challenged on his claim that "Aleppo has fallen,"  but his response was completely chaotic and nonsensical.

As for the rest of it, truly it's a blur. When they go off on one another's failings, or they repeat talking points and campaign boilerplate, I tune out. There's no there there.

Every sign is that Trump will lose the election badly, perhaps a historic loss on the level of Goldwater's loss to Johnson back in the day, or Carter's loss to Reagan. However, even historic losses on that scale provide opportunities for the losing side to eventually become dominant. Our political system has been set up that way. It's not clear what will happen to the congress, though many are predicting an R House and a (barely) D Senate. That seems to be what TPTB want. We'll see.

This will mean an almost certain Hillary impeachment the minute she assumes office, and that will provide endless entertainment for the masses and a huge ratings boost for the media. Trump TeeVee included. The bonanza will be incalculable.

Just like the last time...

My predict-o-meter is typically on the fritz, but my sense is that the SCOTUS will be allowed to wither away, as three more justices retire or die and are not replaced. It will maintain a "conservative" majority without really trying. Win-win (for TPTB) right?

Every Important measure will get through Congress and be signed by Hillary, including some kind of Grand Bargain, several trade agreements, various matters to do with War and Empire and such, budget reforms, and so forth. In other words, the idea that there will be "gridlock" is a crock. No gridlock on the Important Things, far from it.

The Impeachment Follies will probably go on in the House for a year or more, and then the Articles will be sent to the Senate for disposition. The "trial" will last, oh, I don't know, a few months, but whether the Senate chooses to convict Herself will depend a great deal on how well she performs for the Owners under pressure and how much the Senators would prefer her to sit in the Big Chair rather than Kaine. I predict they'll stick with her. But you never know.

Meanwhile, she might wind up one term or less for any number of reasons, including her health. While medical science can no doubt keep her animated indefinitely, there are other issues that might make her wish to "retire" before even the end of her first term.

As for Trump, he'll make a bundle marketing his patented brand of nonsense, but it won't matter because he'll be fringified as will nearly all of his "issues." This is the advantage (to TPTB) of someone like him claiming to be the King of What's Wrong. A good deal of his criticism of Hillary and the Government is valid, but because he is the critic, it will be dismissed. It's like Alex Jones with a (much) bigger audience. Jones is right about some things, but it doesn't matter because he's fringe. And what he's right about is therefore ignored.

The advantage of having a Trumpian fringe is that those inclined to share his views are fringified just like him. Win-Win again for TPTB.

In the meantime, I've suggested that this will be the last "genuine" presidential election. I know, I know, there's all this stuff about how it's being rigged in favor of Hillary. Well, every recent and many (most?) past elections were similarly rigged, But the votes were genuine, and for the most part they were genuinely counted -- where they were fudged, the numbers were mostly very small, just enough to change certain results without raising more than a few suspicions.

Following this election, however, I suspect that we will never have a genuine presidential election again, that the votes and the counts will be predetermined and they may vary greatly from what the electorate chooses, and there will be no way to check. Our Rulers will be chosen for us, and we will have nothing whatever to say about it.

Cf: Roman elections following Augustus. They took place for hundreds of years after the establishment of the Empire, even after the Fall of the Empire, but they were essentially fraudulent and meaningless, and no one voted for or against the Emperor, he was chosen by the palace faction with the greatest power.

And so it will go in our own revised government.

We have reached the final end of the Republic.

Transition compete.

So let it be written, so let it be done.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Nuclear Annihilation! Instant Incineration! Run For Your Lives! We're All Gonna Dieeeeeee!


The fear and frenzy over Our Impending Doooooom! has reached fever pitch. So many online commentators are certain that The Hag will get us into a nuclear war with Russia -- over Syria, Ukraine or someplace -- that they are literally freaking out over it. We Are Doomed!

Now stop, I say. Stop. It. Right. Now.

The fear of Nuclear Annihilation time-honored tactic for control of domestic populations used by both the US/NATO and the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War, though neither power had any intention of using nuclear weapons against the other -- except in the most extreme circumstance, a circumstance that never arose.

But boy was the fear of what might happen ever useful and effective.

What we're witnessing right now is a classic example of Cold War style Brinkmanship and propaganda which is being exploited to the max by both sides with the undeniable implication that one or the other will engage in a nuclear first strike --- and we're all gonna die!

Over Ukraine. Over Syria. Over... well, something, somewhere, somehow, some time.

And Putin is a Madman.

This whole frenzy depends on the underlying belief that Putin is a Madman who will sacrifice Mother Russia and the Russian people to demonstrate how low hanging and clangy his big brass balls are...


No. That's not how Brinkmanship works.

Yes, there are plenty of neoCon cage rattlers in the US/NATO governments who appear to want to engage in a Nuclear Holocaust with the Soviet Union, erm, Putin's Russia. Russia Hate is that strong, and "destroying" Russia is their aim.

But that can only happen if Putin is the Madman the propagandists try to make him out to be. I say he is not. Nothing like it.

And he has absolutely no intention of sacrificing Mother Russia to slow or stop the Imperial Juggernaut.

The cage rattlers will not get their Nuclear Holocaust, not this time, and with any luck, not ever.

But the fear of what might happen will continue to be ratcheted up, the better to control domestic populations, not so much to strike fear in rivals.

The propaganda campaign against Russia started up in earnest as Edward Snowden settled into what appears to be a very comfortable exile as the guest of the Russian Federation. I have long felt that the Snowden Thing started out as a Black Op -- part of a rivalry between The Agencies, meant to provide an upper hand to one faction of security/spy agents over another. The initial exposures of domestic spying by the NSA, for example, didn't tell us anything (much) that we didn't already know or suspect. Greenwald, et al., had to scramble to point out that this was confirmation of what we knew/suspected and that was the main point of the revelations, and that was good!

Whatever. There was little more than proforma outrage from the powers that be, styling to be seen as responsible adults and all that. But when details of foreign spying operations were published, everything changed. What The Agencies were doing to foreign governments was not supposed to be released, I guess, and at that point -- starting before then, of course -- Snowden became a real persona non grata, and his protector Putin became The Evil One as far as the propaganda machine was concerned.

In addition, WikiLeaks, which once seemed like a Honeypot to snag various malcontents, but as Snowden accomplice and helper, was subjected to increasingly intense pressure from all sides.

I think that much of the anti-Putin and anti-Assange propaganda is due in large measure to the continued presence of Snowden as guest of the Kremlin, and that (temporary) resolution to the current Brinkmanship will be found in withdrawing the Russian welcome extended to Snowden.

He's the card Putin can play to bring a (temporary) end to the present state of affairs.

That doesn't mean that it won't happen again (it most likely will; the Imperial Project is relentless, and the dismemberment of the Russian Federation is a long-ago announced goal); but its current iteration will become inoperative.

In the meantime, it's worthwhile to review how Brinkmanship works, and to understand that Putin at least is no Madman.

See all of this as a shadowplay, not as reality.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Aleppo Thing vs the Mosul Thing vs the Fallujah Things vs All The Other Things...

I'm no Syria expert, far from it, but the propaganda out of Syria especially over Aleppo, is grating to say the least.

We are constantly informed ("") that Russia (read Putin) and Syria (read Assad) are "destroying" Aleppo and that the city might "fall" to these Evil Ones as they kill and maim innocent women and children (the children seen on heartrending video practically every day) and repeatedly blow up the "last remaining hospital" in Aleppo... etc. The horror show just never ends, and obviously Putin-Assad-Satan are guilty of War Crimes worse than those that led to the Nuremberg Trials. Oh, much worse.

Except b over at Moon of Alabama has been explaining in exhaustive detail that this narrative is false from top to bottom. It's not just propaganda, it is the definition of The Big Lie.

"Aleppo" is a very large city in northern Syria, and most of its population has always been under official Syrian government control. The eastern part of the city is under the control of a hodgepodge of "rebel" groups (b insists they're fraudulent and mostly jihadist/terrorist groups -- al Qaida, ISIS and the like -- paid by the USA/CIA to oppose Assad). The eastern part of the city is far less residential than the western part, and not surprisingly most of Aleppo's population lives in the western city, not the eastern.

We never hear this in our "news" about what's going on in Syria. "Aleppo" is always presented as one city united and valiantly fighting for its life against the cruel aggression of Assad and Putin, never is it even hinted that there has always been a large population -- a majority -- living more or less normal lives (as much as anyone can be said to be living "normally" under the circumstances) in West Aleppo. That part of the city and its  residents don't exist in the propaganda narrative. They've been erased.

There is a struggle going on for control of East Aleppo, and that struggle is ugly and violent. The Syrian army and Russian air power are involved in that struggle as they jointly attempt to retake East Aleppo and drive out the jihadists/terrorists. They are making some progress. But it is not without cost. There is much destruction to be sure, but it's nothing like the claims of the "rebels." False reports out of East Aleppo are routine, and everything we hear, see and read about it must be taken skeptically, because most of it is a lie.

One part of the Big Lie is that "Aleppo" -- that is to say East Aleppo -- has a civilian population of several hundred thousand under siege and bombardment by the Evil Ones. b assures us that's false.
He insists there are no more than about 20-30,000 civilians in that part of the city -- and there may be far fewer. There were never as many in East Aleppo -- which is mostly an industrial and quasi-rural part of the city -- as there were in the Western city, which is mostly residential and commercial.

He insists that most of the civilian population of East Aleppo left long ago and those that remain are mostly the families of the jihadists and terrorists -- paid by the USA to fight Assad.

So if I'm understanding this story correctly -- and I can't say I do understand it fully -- most of the population of Aleppo has always been under Syrian government authority. A jihadist/terrorist faction supported and paid by the USA took control of the eastern part of the city some years ago, and now the Syrian government and their Russian allies have launched a campaign to take it back.

This almost exactly parallels the just launched effort of Iraqi armed forces together with their American allies to "retake" Mosul from jihadist/terrorist ISIS control, just as previously similar campaigns were launched against Fallujah (for what, the fourth time?) and Tikrit, among other cities in Iraq.

And during these campaigns, the cities are essentially flattened, and the civilian population that can't escape are exterminated. That's the pattern set years ago during the American occupation. It's happened over and over again. And that's the pattern being followed by the Syrian government in East Aleppo and other cities under jihadist/terrorist control in Syria.

Everything that our propagandists claim Putin/Assad are doing in Aleppo is being done or has been done in Mosul, Fallujah and other cities in Iraq by combined American/Iraqi armed forces, and for essentially the same reasons, with approximately the same result. Ruined cities and dead civilians -- and escaped jihadi/terrorists.

It beggars belief.

Accusations of War Crimes are flying thick and fast, and calls for a No Fly Zone over northern Syria -- to protect "Aleppo" -- are intensifying. Of course such an action would mean War With Russia. Which must be approached gingerly, as Russia is a heavily armed nuclear power, and one doesn't want to mess with  that unnecessarily. Does one?

You would think not, but according to many observers, our NeoCon rulers are actually spoiling for a nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union -- er, Putin's Russia -- and would welcome the chance to go nuclear on Putin's ass.

How much of this is brinksmanship and posturing I have no idea, but the thought is understandably troubling to more than a few Americans. Are Our Rulers crazy?

Well, I think we've long understood that they are. They are out of their freaking minds.

On the other hand, the Kremlin and Vladimir Putin in particular, appear to be among the sanest of international rulers. They are not going to start a nuclear war with the United States.

There's a widespread assumption among Hag-Haters that Hillary is bound and determined to engage the US with Russia in a nuclear exchange. I think that's ridiculous. Just as ridiculous as the notion that Trump won't start a nuclear war.

We're in realms of pure fantasy and projection when we believe that one or the other will or won't start a war with Russia. There is no way for us to know one way or the other. There is always a risk of nuclear annihilation no matter who sits in the Big Chair, simply because there are so many nuclear weapons on both sides (and others, it's not just two nuclear powers after all) and we can't predict how our rulers or other rulers will behave. We can hope, but we can't know.

Brinkmanship is a long known and practiced form of international "diplomacy," and I think that's what's going on with the current round of nuclear threats. Those of us who lived through the Cold War ought to be thoroughly familiar with  the tactic. It's frightening and potentially deadly, though the point of it is intimidate the other side sufficiently to gain one's objectives without resort to the Ultimate Weapons. A side advantage of Brinkmanship is that it so frightens the domestic population that they are kept in line. Patriotism and all that.

Meanwhile the meatgrinders continue without let up.

Proxy wars without end.

That would be true no matter who sat in the Big Chair, and unless we're willing and able to rise up as one, we the Rabble have no control over it.

I wish it weren't so, but it is.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Hillary Speeches Hoo-Hah

I've held off saying much about the Hillary Speeches Doc Dump because there isn't really a whole lot to say about it. I have read a few of the docs that have appeared or been linked from elsewhere. It's all but impossible to search WikiLeaks' archives itself (I tried "Podesta emails", for example, and came up with 62 of supposedly thousands of hacked emails.)

Anyway, what's in these emails and the partial transcripts of speeches Hillary gave to the High and Mighty for Big Bucks strikes me as pretty benign. She even tries to inject a modicum of social conscience into people and institutions that have none. No wonder this isn't getting a lot of traction in the media or much of anywhere else. Despite the headlines, there's very little there there.

There's so little there there that Lambert over at NC, always one of the most inciteful (heh) analysts of Things Clinton ("Clintoooon!"), had to say: "Reading these, I’m thinking the $675,000 had nothing to do with the actual content…."

We know from endless prattle of the likes of Lambert and many others that all things Clinton ("Clintoooon!") are the definition of corrupt. There is no political corruption on the face of the earth unless it is smeared with Clintoon shit. None. And these emails, according to Julian Assange would be filled with smoking guns of Clintoon corruption that would, somehow or other, destroy her campaign.

Well. No. Not so far anyway. 

They show her getting along with the Mighty-Mighty titans and malefactors of great wealth to be sure, but in every one of the ones I've seen, she's telling them to their faces that they need to get a soul and start treating the rest of humanity -- like all the millions who've been harmed by their shenanigans --  better. Sometimes there are details of what she expects of them -- such as lending to Main Street to get the economy going again -- and sometimes there aren't, it's just a moral(ish) declaration. "It's your obligation to do better for the Little People."[Paraphrase.]

So the question has been raised, "Why the hell didn't she just release this stuff when Bernie asked? 'Cause it sure doesn't look like there was anything worth hiding in what's been hacked."

Of course these aren't the whole transcripts, they're excerpts, but there's nothing shocking or more than modestly ear-grating in them. She doesn't have a way with words, let's put it that way. She's no great orator to the Great and Worthy or to the Rabble. But there's an inner coherence to what she has to say, and gets across her points relatively well. One of which is, "I'm your friend, and I want you to behave better."

Gee. Alert the media! Get this to Olbermann, stat! (An old joke, but sometimes it's fun...)

Her positions -- so far as I can make out -- are pretty much the same as Obama's when it comes to those people. Which has been arm's length but relatively friendly. Enough so that they're rolling in money while the rest of us have continued to struggle with little or no help from Our Betters.

I think it's Greenwald who has proposed that though the emails are not particularly damning or devastating, they do show how She (Who Must Be Obeyed) would govern, and it's not pretty. 

Well, no. It never is.

With Hillary it is perhaps less pretty because of her nature and background and her absence of oratorical power -- particularly problematical is her legal training and experience. I'm convinced it destroys otherwise good people who want to do right, but once they learn about the Law, they're lucky to do anything unless it conforms to custom and can be parsed to mean what it doesn't.

I come from a family of attorneys. I don't recommend their ways as a general thing. It's nuts making.

Big Dog has had many of the same problems of excessive legalism as Hillary does. 

I think it's interesting that it's called "corruption" when it is really something else again. Let's call it an excess of moralism based in flawed understandings of law and propriety. Or maybe it's inner defiance....

Anyway, it's gotten the Clintons in trouble more than once.

These emails don't show the kind of corruption that Hillary is incessantly accused of. The accusation of "pay to play" quid pro quos between Herself and the myriad High and Mighty interests she's dealt with don't fly in the end because there's no direct sign of a quid let alone a pro quo. Well, I should say, there's more than a few quid, in that many tens of millions of dollars have gone into hers and Bill's pockets and into the Clinton Foundation, but other than a "fair hearing" it's not clear that anything has been delivered to those interests that they wouldn't have already received anyway.  They didn't have to pay her for what they got on the other end. They would have gotten it anyway.

In other words, the charges of "corruption" are based in a fantasy understanding of how government is supposed to work.

Not an understanding of how it does work.

So what did they pay her for?

It's always a question, isn't it? Why do ex-officials, it doesn't matter who they are, cash in so heavily on the speaking-lecture circuit or gain multi-millions from legal partnerships or from sitting on boards of directors once they leave office? How does that work, exactly, and what are the parameters?

What do the speakers-partners-board-members provide the payers?

You can't get a clear understanding of this System from all the yapping going on about it, particularly not from all the puerile insults being thrown around: "Clintoooon!!!!" Etc.

Yes, it is a System, fully formed long ago, by which those who once served in high government office (and sometimes not so high) can profit mightily and legally once they leave the marble halls of government, and by which they can thence return to the Hallowed Corridors of Power, rich as Croesus, to start the cycle over again. It is the custom of the tribe. Dick Cheney, anyone?

We may disagree with it -- I certainly do -- but it is legal, and it is all but impossible to prove a direct pro quo for the quid, so legally it's not corruption. No, not really. Really!

It's especially so the higher you go up the ladder of the System. Lower ranks can and do get in trouble or sometimes go to jail for relatively minor indiscretions in squeezing the teats of the System, but the higher the rank, the less likely one is to have one's tits put through the wringer.

The System itself is corrupt, but we don't hear about that, and passions rarely rise over the whole damn thing. No, it's individuals like Hillary who are pilloried for working the System to their advantage, for profiting legally (or sometimes not) from the opportunities on hand.

That someone else does likewise, say Colin Powell or Condolezza Rice to pull two names at random out of a hat, is not a problem -- they're not running for office of course -- but they're profiting from the same System Hillary has. The list of profiteers is almost endless.

That Hillary has worked the System better than many must be galling to her rivals who are convinced she's just not that smart, but the emails show her with a clear grasp of issues and the interests of the people she's speaking to, and the interests of those who have been left behind, a fuller grasp than I would have expected. She may not express herself artfully -- far from it -- but she's no slouch or dullard when it comes down to it.

I suspect she suffers from being "too smart for her own good."

What she seems to lack is good judgment. This has led to some catastrophic misjudgments and utter horror for millions of people in the Middle East, North Africa, Central America and elsewhere. Her husband suffered from some of the same problems of poor judgment Hillary has though perhaps on a different plane...

Yet strangely, or perhaps not, Hillary's poor judgment seems to be right in line with the theories of how things ought to be as they are the accepted consensus among the Ruling Class. In other words, even her moral scolding -- and moral failing -- is taken by them as right and proper.

They should be doing better by the Lower Orders. But they don't. Aww, such a Pity so many have to suffer...

All the Hag-Hate in the world is not going to change that. It will have no affect on the System at all. It's a diversion. Perhaps even an engineered one to ensure that nothing will interfere with the System as it is.

Trump, too, seems to be a diversion.

Keep the Rabble entertained enough and at one another's throats enough, and Wah-Lah! Their impotence for another cycle is assured.

That is key to keeping the Overclass on top and the Rabble incapable of doing anything about it.

Part of the President's job assignment is to soothe or tame the Rabble. Obama is a master at it; there hasn't been anyone as skilled at it since FDR. Hillary is not skilled at it, not at all, and Trump's apparent goal is to rile them up so much they commit mayhem or even a Revolution from the Right.

TPTB cannot tolerate that, of course, but they must be disappointed in Hillary's failure to connect with, let alone tame the Rabble who might well rise up on their own against what they see as an inappropriate continuation of an unacceptable status quo.

The situation puts the Overclass on the spot. Clearly they have decided on Hillary for the White House, but as she is incapable of properly taming the masses, something or someone will have to supplement her rule. I don't see Mr. Kaine being much help in that regard. Certainly Bill will face the same sort of difficulty he did when he was president. Nor would Democratic control of one or both houses of Congress do her any favors. In fact, given the historic fecklessness and misrule of the Democrats, and their lack of interest in progressive policy solutions to domestic and international problems, I can easily imagine a Democratic majority in either or both houses of Congress would be even worse for Hillary than it was for Obama when he had a Democratic majority.

If the Rs keep the House -- likely but not certain -- who would be surprised if articles of impeachment are filed within minutes of her taking office? Who would be surprised with endless "investigations," scandal mongering, hysterics even greater than when Bill was in office? The media will eat it up, just as they have with the sex-accusations against Trump.  They don't care about other aspects of his history, though, do they? The man is a gangster and a con man, and he is a representative of his class, but none of that matters when there is sex on the table.

Nothing matters except The Sex.

It strikes me that there's a revenge drama running through all this nonsense, "get back" for past slights and mistakes. How all that works is a topic for another day.

Right now, though, the Hillary Speeches Hoo-Hah is a lot of sound and fury signifying almost nothing.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Las Migas in Albuquerque

And now for something completely different...

My ancestry and heritage is not Latin but English and Irish and German, yet if I had a choice of cultures to belong to, I would be far more inclined to Latin/Hispano/Chicano than English, Irish, or German. I've always attributed this to the fact that I spent much of my childhood in mixed neighborhoods in Southern and Central Coast California, where many of my neighbors and friends were Mexicans and Mexican-American, and where Spanish and Mexican history was proudly asserted.

Today, of course, we live in New Mexico, where Spanish and Mexican history and culture are proudly asserted, and where some of our friends and neighbors, perhaps most of them, are of Hispanic ancestry. It just seems natural to me.

While our cultural interests are pretty broad, we have a special fondness for flamenco, which for all intents and purposes is the New Mexico State Dance. There are a number of world class flamenco troupes in New Mexico, and we make it a point to attend flamenco performances as often as we can.

Last night it was Las Migas from Barcelona at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque.

Well, that was different! 

Flamenco in New Mexico tends to be very traditional with modern touches. Maria Benitez from Taos was perhaps the pioneer New Mexico flamenco dancer and teacher forty or fifty years ago. One can see the influence of Antonio Gades' choreographic repertoire and style among current troupes -- which is very contemporary though Gades' dance and musical vocabulary is based entirely in the flamenco tradition.

Las Migas breaks away from that tradition and starts one of its own. Mira:

Being todo mujeres is not all that unusual among flamenco groups, as many have been and are all women. But Las Migas is unusual in creating a lot of their own music and focusing on the music rather than the dance. And in their literature they make clear their music is a fusion of flamenco and "Mediterranean" sounds.

There was a segment of dance in their show last night, with Alba, their lead singer, dancing a very unusual and contemporary flamenco interpretation. That is what she does. Mira:

There were few people in the Disney Theatre (Roy Disney, Walt's brother, funded the mainstage at NHCC back in the day) when we got there last night, and I feared that because Las Migas was little known in Albuquerque (this was their US debut performance) attendance would be light. But it turned out the place was nearly full when the show was a few minutes under way -- road construction nearby may have caused some people to be late.

Alba started speaking in English -- her English is very good -- but she asked in Spanish whether people in the audience could understand her. The response was ¡Si!  She asked in Spanish if there was anyone in the audience who couldn't understand her. No response. "¿Nadie?" No response. Well, of course. If you don't understand Spanish, you're not going to know what she's asking, no?


So she continued through the rest of the show speaking Barcelona Spanish mixed I'm sure with some Catalan, and it strained my limited Spanish to follow along. I found I could understand enough, though, that I didn't feel left out. I even got some of her jokes, ja ja. My Spanish comprehension must be better than I thought.

The Barcelona accent is not quite Castilian, but it is recognizably Spanish from Spain and not from the Americas, particularly not Mexican. New Mexicans pride themselves on their preservation of Castilian Spanish from the 17th century, and so despite any differences there may have been between the Barcelona Spanish of Las Migas, and the somewhat antiquated Castilian spoken among many New Mexicans, there seemed not to be a language barrier with the audience at all. If there was, I wouldn't have known anyway, because I still have some difficulty with New Mexico Spanish, about as much as I had with the Barcelona Spanish of Las Migas.

I go on about this because essentially the entire show was performed and explained in Spanish (there was one song in Catalan), and English was set aside for the evening. That's a first for me at NHCC, where most performances are either in English, or bilingüe, English-Spanish. As far as I could tell, most of the audience appreciated that there was no need to use English or to cater to the Anglos in the audience (and there were more than a few of "us".)

In New Mexico, Hispanic heritage and culture may have pride of place, but nearly everyone uses English rather than Spanish day to day. Last night, it wasn't necessary. And that was, I think, liberating.

The musicianship and song styling of Las Migas is first rate. The "Mediterranean" aspects of their music were interestingly interpreted by the audience, some of whom were up and dancing in the aisles, as tropical. Of course, it was familiar that way. That part of the show was interpreted as cross-over-fusion perhaps more so than was intended, but it was fine.

Alba Carmona, the lead singer and dancer, has a very powerful, smoky voice, not quite as gutteral as much flamenco cante,  but strong and clear and packed with emotion nonetheless. Hers is a different kind of flamenco cante, just as her dance is a different kind of flamenco baile. The term of art is Nuevo Flamenco. Again, that was something new for us as it may have been for most of the audience.

The group as a whole performs strongly together, obviously enjoying themselves and the music. The two guitarists were superb, and their solo segment was technically and artistically outstanding. It was not, however, "flamenco" guitar, which was just fine!

Their violinist had her own moments to shine, and I thought her contribution was a major factor taking Las Migas's work out of the "traditional" realm and into new territory.

Alba, however, was clearly the star and attention grabber, both vocally and through her dance (the others joined her dancing at the end of the first act, following her lead off stage as the house lights came up for intermission.)

NHCC has been actively seeking and presenting European acts from Spain for some time to supplement their rather strong focus on Hispanic art and artists from the Americas. Las Migas may have been one of their most successful efforts to date. It was a continuation and celebration of the venue's Latin Diva Series. 

Ms. Ché is Native American (Cherokee) and she is attending a Native American art school in Santa Fe (IAIA). Yet she is perhaps even more appreciative of Hispanic arts and culture than I am. As she becomes more deeply involved in Native American arts and culture than she was ever able to do in California, she's gaining a stronger appreciation for other cultures and styles present in New Mexico, including, from time to time, the contemporary "Anglo" arts and cultural sphere -- though you should hear her criticize it! Oh my!

This was Las Migas's first appearance in Albuquerque, but we both hope it will not be their last. ¡Viva!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Creepy Clown vs The Hag

This election pageant has devolved into a cage match between Creepy Clown and The Hag. Some of it appears to be as scripted as a pro-wrestling match, other aspects seem to be ad libbed to the point where the contest is running the risk of spinning entirely out of control.

The irony is that the riveted focus of the contest is on the Sex Thing; dredging up Big Dog's past while all these new accusations against Trump are put in play. And blaming Putin and the Russians for the leaked Podesta emails...

Which puts a whole other layer of irony on this mess of a presidential campaign.

Sex sells, of course, so I guess we should have anticipated this focus on doing the nasty. Which, without consent, makes it assault and/or rape. Nasty indeed. Now of course we all know that Bubba was vehemently accused of doing likewise a couple of decades ago, and that got him in several tubs of hot water, including winding up impeached -- but not removed from office -- by the august majesty of Congress Assembled. It was quite the goon show. That was right around the time I started writing and commenting online. The impeachment of Bill Clinton triggered a lot of us to make some waves and call for... some semblance of reason in Our Government.

The thing was, there were plenty of things to criticize Clinton and his administration for. PLENTY. Every time the focus turned to The Sex though, all those other things -- from NAFTA to Serbia and Rwanda, the dismantlement of welfare as we knew it, the free rein given the banks, and on and on --
were shunted aside. And it quickly enough became clear that that was a prime motivation for focusing on The Sex. Keep the Rabble amused and entertained with prurient stories of Bubba's libido and poof, all those other things disappear.

Sure enough, it worked. It wasn't just the Rabble being entertained, either. This was hard core Presidential Porn for vast swaths of the Government as well. The Congress was entirely captivated; the media likewise. Special prosecutors went wild with glee. It was insane.

The echoes of all of that in the accusations once again being hurled at Bill Clinton, and by extension somehow tainting his wife ("The Hag") are dredging up plenty of revulsion among the masses. "Oh please, let us not go through all this again. Please!" I'm seeing the same sort of hyperbole about Bubba -- he's a rapist and worse, oh much worse, and Don't Forget Vince Foster, and Mina airport, and so much else that he's guilty-guilty-guilty of! -- being injected into the commentary about Trump's libido. It's as if the insanity of those times was institutionalized, and is now a permanent fixture of the government/media complex.

Of course many young people are being exposed to it for the first time. They didn't live through it like old codgers like me did. They didn't experience the utter hysteria the first time around, so this current hoo-hah must come as something of a shock to them. WTF? Right?

Not just the hoo-hah over Trump's stunted adolescent pawing of females and "locker room talk," but all the stuff about Bubba being a cad and a heel and an inveterate womanizer, too. Not that no one knew about it, it's just that until recently it wasn't much of a Thing anymore. Then suddenly, BOOM. It's back in all it's sleaze and tattered glory. 

Somehow this is supposed to impugn Hillary ("The Hag") for sticking with Her Man, yadda yadda. I'm surprised that the accusations that she's a lesbian or that Web Hubble is Chelsea's father haven't yet surfaced again. Let's try not to be shocked/surprised if they do.

There's a whole encyclopedia of accusations to draw from, after all.

Hag-Hate is a definite subculture in the USofA. What Bubba did back in the day -- and more importantly what he is accused of doing -- is a fundamental part of Hag-Hate. She was there, she enabled, she probably (an accusation) procured. She's therefore as Utterly Evil as he is.

Policy discussion and issues of (shall we say) more global importance get shoved to the background.

But isn't that the point? I think so.

In point of fact, the Clintons ("Clintoons" in the puerile lexicon of Hag-Hate) and their supposed rightist political opponents agree on most issues of global importance. Such disagreement as there is on the Important Issues comes from the left, not from the right. Never has been all that much disagreement on those Important Issues on the R side of the aisle, as there still isn't.

That's why I've said many times that Hillary ("The Hag") is running as the Establishment Republican candidate, not really as a Democrat at all. As many have pointed out, some of her policy proposals are to the right of Nixon. She isn't even as "leftist" as a Rockefeller Republican. Her belligerence and warmongering are direct throwbacks to Bush-Cheney, but they're rooted in the Kissinger perspective of world domination that flows through White House regimes like a river.

We the Rabble don't seem to be able to move or channel this river of hegemony in any way.

But who cares? It's not about The Sex, is it?

Trump is being portrayed as the prototype Creepy Clown, and I won't go so far as to say that's unfair. He's self-aware enough to understand that because he's rich and famous ("") he can get away with most anything he wants when it comes to Female Flesh, and he can crush his male rivals one by one or in batches (at least in his own mind.)  This is the mindset of a gangster and conman. No surprise, that's what he is.

That should be something the electorate pays attention to, but it seems that there's little or no comprehension of Trump's nature. Some see him as a bully and a predator -- but they like it. ("At least he's our Bully!" That sort of thing.) No, no, no. Trump does not bully on behalf of anybody but himself. Do you understand? No, they don't.

He's conning his supporters. Oh, but they like it. Whether they know it or not, they like being conned by Trump, because at least he's bothering to tell them what they want to hear ("Lock her up!") whereas the sticks in the mud "regular" Republicans endlessly tell them to sit down and shut up. Much as the "regular" Democratic Pooh-Bahs tell the rest of the Rabble to do likewise. "Sit down and shut up; there is no alternative."

Maggie Thatcher must be so pleased and proud looking up at us from her perch in Hell.


But again, none of that matters when the story is all about The Sex.

It's been noted that the obsessive focus on who did what to whom when is practically overwhelming the story of the Podesta email hack that is supposed to be exposing all the "devastating" details of what Hillary ("The Hag") really believes about the World and Everything.

And of course it's all Putin's fault.


What I've seen of these emails (note, it's useless to try to search WikiLeaks for anything of interest), suggests to me that there's essentially nothing in them that we didn't already suspect or know, and that to a surprising degree, Hillary ("The Hag") was using her position and the opportunity to inject something resembling a social conscience into the crowds of malefactors of great wealth before whom she was speechifying. WHAT???? If there's a smoking gun of perfidy worthy of more than a passing glance, I haven't seen it. But then, we only see what others want us to see...

In other words, if she were smart, and her campaign wasn't so focused on the Creepy Clown, she'd actually be using these leaks in her defense; if she and her campaign were smart, they would have been using these things from day one. No, she doesn't come across as an antagonist to these High and Mighty Owners, not at all; but she does come across as a Persuader, "helping" them to do the Right Thing for once in their sorry lives. In this, she really strikes me as akin to a Republican moralist of yore.

But no. The focus must stay on the Creepy Clown and how Outrageous he is.

It's political malpractice, but then, side issues are always more important in the Pageant, aren't they? Gossip and scandal, you know? That's what the People really want.

And of course, Blame It All On the Russians.

I've been thinking about this anti-Putin, anti-Russia propaganda campaign quite a bit. It makes no logical sense at all. It's not just out of bounds, it's crazy, and it could spin out of control at any time, leading to God only knows what. But why? Why does it exist at all?

A theory is that it grows directly out of the neocon "Project for a New American Century" which is the blueprint for the catastrophe in the Middle East, and the plan for establishing and extending American Hegemony over the entire globe. The destruction of Russia -- regime change, followed by dismemberment -- is part of the long-term goal. So, too, the destruction and dismemberment of China. Any rival to American Imperial Power must be destroyed, vanquished or absorbed. The two strongest rivals are Russia and China, so it is proposed, and taking them out is in the National Interest. Or something.

So Putin, fully aware of this, sees the saber rattling and tub thumping coming out of DC and particularly from the Clinton campaign as an existential threat to Mother Russia, never mind to himself. That's actually quite rational.

But the blaming of Putin/Russia for everything is propaganda-silly. When I see it parroted in the "news" and online, I'm just gobsmacked. Have we learned nothing from the barrage of lies and half truths that led to the monstrous invasion and occupation of Iraq? And all the continuing fall out from that? What? How can Americans still be so gullible?

Dear God, no.

But I think there's something more than merely the Plan being followed. No, I think the current propaganda barrage is the result of something more immediate: Snowden. What? 

Think about it. Russia-US relations changed fundamentally when Putin-Stalin granted asylum to Edward Snowden three years ago (or whenever it was, I forget now...) That act was blamed directly on Putin, and it was cited as defiance of US orders and demands that he be turned over to American authorities forthwith.

Not only has that not been done, but Russia has provided Snowden with a home, apparently with a good living, a girlfriend, and much, much more. He has become well integrated into Russian high life. And he is being carefully protected by the Kremlin.

Anti-Russian and particularly anti-Putin propaganda ramped up immediately, and it has now reached a fever pitch unseen since the propaganda barrage preparatory to the invasion of Iraq. We're seeing a similar anti-WikiLeaks propaganda barrage, which I attribute at least in part to WikiLeaks' assistance in spiriting Snowden into comfortable exile in Russia.

For a long time, I thought Snowden was a black op, a "limited hangout". Perhaps he started out that way, but something changed along the way, and once he was protectively ensconced in Mother Russia, his revelations became less about domestic spying and so forth (which the NSA, etc. were quite prepared to "explain") and more about international spying, some of which was quite embarrassing from a diplomatic point of view (let alone  from the security state standpoint.)  In other words, he crossed a line that was unpermitted. That enraged his former supervisors at the Agencies. And revenge became their prime directive, no just revenge against him, but revenge against all those who had helped him.

That sort of revenge appears to be in play in the actions of the Clinton campaign to literally destroy the Republican brand and if possible take Congressional power away from them -- while utterly destroying Trump in the process.

It's revenge for the impeachment and the follies that followed.

It's all very, very personal.

Yes, our governing class is just that nasty. Oh yes.

All this is sickening, but there's nothing we can do about it from our position Outside the Gates. Our Betters don't listen to us. They govern contrary to our interests. They dismiss our pleas.

They are Bourbon-like. This would be true no matter which unacceptable candidate is in office. It is who they are, and it is what they must do. No matter who it is. We saw quite clearly how this works with Obama's transformation once he was installed in the Big Chair. He became the creature of those he had denounced.

So we're screwed once again.

But meanwhile, we can focus attention on the All Important Sex Issues once again.

Save us.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Protests in Albuquerque Over the Mistrial of Sandy and Perez

The news yesterday evening was hyperventilating over a protest organized by UnOccupy Albuquerque at the courthouse and police headquarters over the mistrial of Keith Sandy and Dominque Perez for the killing of James Boyd.

Oh my, oh my. The news claimed the protest "turned violent" when protesters took to the street and blocked traffic briefly. Some of the drivers decided to proceed, in spite of people in the street blocking the way, and that resulted in some pushing and shoving between vehicles and people, and there was one report of a fight between a driver and someone in the street. There was also an instance in which a driver, plowing through people attempting to block his way, had his vehicle hit with a sign.

That was the "violence."

News people on the scene practically had the vapors.

Police eventually arrived and closed off the streets in the vicinity which dampened some of the conflict between drivers and protesters. At police headquarters, police with automatic weapons and dressed in camo fatigues guarded the building. Bless their hearts. Snipers were stationed on nearby rooftops (as had been the case during protest the night before.)

Then as darkness fell, police arrived at the courthouse (where the protest had reassembled) with their LRAD -- which I didn't see them use -- together with a half-dozen or so camoed-up and AR-15 wielding SWAT officers.

They were mocked and shouted at by protesters from ten yards away or so, most with their hands up ("don't shoot") and some on their knees. The news people watching this practically had their heart attacks at this point.

Finally, the last I saw of the protest, a line of several dozen camoed and AR carrying po-po assembled on one side of the street while the protesters formed a line on the other, and a stand off ensued.

I'll go check the news now and see if anything more happened. I suspect the protesters ultimately dispersed except for the more radical anarchist contingent, two or three of whom probably got themselves arrested.

We'll see.

The story, as seen on the 10pm news...

[I had to delete the teevee news segment due to an autoplay feature that I could not dismiss...fooey]

A slide show of the hoo-hah: [Deleted the slide show as well. Still having the autoplay problems...fooey]

And a link to the news story

Just to make clear, Albuquerque has a very active police abuse protest community, but it has factions. While some are inclined to confront police, others are more nuanced and subtle. I saw both factions in play in the videos and news reports, and I recognized some of the participants from other protests I've been involved with. These are people who are dedicated to making waves and precipitating change.

The problem is and has been that when change occurs, as it has with APD, there is so little recognition of it...